Tag Archive | birds

Birds of Egypt: “Abu Ghuttaas,” The Pied Kingfisher

A Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis), also known as "Abu Ghuttaas" ("father of those who dunk") sits on the wire hunting for fish in an irrigation canal fed from the Nile River in our rural village in Egypt

A Pied Kingfisher in our rural Egyptian village… (Please click image for more)

Another frequent visitor to our rural little corner of Egypt’s Nile delta is this handsome fellow nicknamed by the birdwatching locals, “Abu Ghuttaas,” loosely translated as “Father of those who dunk.” Ducking under water and coming back up quickly (as the ducks do) is referred to in my husband’s french chocolate tongue as “making ghuts.”

A Pied Kingfisher, this black and white beauty is properly known by his Latin name, Ceryle rudis, but the Ancient Egyptians reportedly called him “cnHb.t” or maybe it’s “cn-nHb.t.” Gutenberg doesn’t tell us how to say it, but is certain this translates into “the one turning around the neck (when hovering above water spying fish),” — I tried very hard to confirm this with the local Ancient Egyptians, but everyone around here insists he is just Abu Ghuttaas.

This particularly handsome bird up on that wire is a male, as he has two bands of black around his neck. Similar to his more strikingly colored cousin, Mr. Fairuz, (Turquoise) the Collared Kingfisher, Abu Ghuttaas loves to hang around our home, hunting for fish in the irrigation canal. All of Egypt’s delta region is watered by a wide network of irrigation canals fed by the Nile River, and we commonly see many little fish swimming around in the canal from our second floor windows.

Abu Ghuttaas favorite fishing canal on our corner in egypt

Abu Ghuttaas’ favorite fishing canal on our corner in Egypt

The electric wires coming to our home provide a perfect perch for many beautiful birds, and I always feel amazingly blessed and thankful to get such a perfect view from our windows. But I go way over the top of that when I get a good clear picture of a beautiful bird!! (or sheep, or donkey…lol)

Pied Kingfishers are not very picky eaters, hovering over water and diving straight down to capture fish, snails, bugs, it’s all good to Abu Ghuttaas. Eating on the wing, so to speak, they can continuously forage without needing to sit down to eat. Here’s a great photo by Karthik Easvur with all the stages of dunking, or “making ghuts,” superimposed on the image — it gives a great illustration of the amazing beauty of this handsome bird in action:

Pied Kingfisher's fishing manoeuvre, combined in a single image, c. Karthik Easvur (Wikicommons)

Pied Kingfisher’s fishing manoeuvre, combined in a single image, c. Karthik Easvur (Wikicommons)

On the other side of our corner, near our garage, are several “Toot” (Mulberry) trees. This must be a favorite hangout for the beautiful birds of Egypt, at least in our rural little corner, anyway — it was up in a nearby Toot tree that I was able to capture a couple of great shots of Cleopatra, the Green Bee-Eater, another favorite of mine. Here’s one more photo of Abu Ghuttaas, perched up in a Toot tree:

Abu Ghuttaas, a Pied Kingfisher, in a Toot (Mulberry) Tree

Abu Ghuttaas, a Pied Kingfisher, in a Toot (Mulberry) Tree… (Please click image for more)


You might like to learn more at Wikipedia about Abu Ghuttaas, the Pied Kingfisher, and here’s a YouTube video to watch, too:

Click here for the previous bird in this series: Abu Maghazil, The Spur-Winged Lapwing


Birds of Egypt: “Abu Maghazil,” The Spur-Winged Lapwing

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In Egypt, the name of this beautiful bird is, “Abu Maghazil,” or “Father of Hooks.” His official name is “Spur-Winged Lapwing,” or “Vanellus spinosus,” in the family of “Charadriidae.” He is named for a sharp spur hiding in each wing, which he uses for defense.

Mohamed says the “maghzal” is the hook on the end of the stick traditionally used for spinning wool or cotton into thread. I immediately imagined an ancient Egyptian using Abu Maghazil’s hook-shaped spur for the earliest spinning of sheep’s wool into thread for the weaving looms, and I could be right, as you can see in this picture:

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Birds of Egypt: “Um Uway’e,” The Little Owl

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"Um Uway'e," or "Mother of Owl" - Beloved Little Owl of Athena

It was a chilly, drab day in the oasis when this pretty little lady popped in to say “Salam!”

There is a small window in my kitchen that faces the back sundeck and lightens my kitchen chores with bright, happy sunshine. But on this particular day, as I searched out this window for any sign of hope, I sighed at the drab, cloudy and lightly misty skies. Not particularly enthused to return to my dishes, I lingered a little longer at the window. The drab sky, and the drab concrete wall of the room over the garage seemed all of one boring, dripping color.

Then she moved, just slightly, lightly flicking a brown facial feather as though a raindrop rolled down into one of those huge round yellow eyes and she twitched to clear her view. I didn’t even know I was staring at her until that tiny movement. My eyes shifted focus from the drab sky to those amazing eyes. I found her gaze firmly focused… on me! Oh, Delight! My heart leapt with joy, I was so excited to see an owl! In daylight! Alright, half daylight, at best, but still… an owl! Hurray!!
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Birds of Egypt: “Fairuz,” The Collared Kingfisher

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This bright little beauty is what a cheap firework dreams of being when it grows up.
“Fairuz,” or, as this word is translated into English, “Turquoise,” is this gorgeous bird’s name in Egypt. They are outstanding fishers, diving for their prey from high in the air. Collared Kingfishers often hang out around the canals lining two sides of our property, and I love to watch them flapping their wings as they hover in place above the water. Soon the moment is right and he flashes like the blue flame of a match being thrown into the water. I swear the water sizzles instead of splashes as he dives, spearing or catching the little fish with his long, sharp bill.
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Birds of Egypt: “Hud Hud,” The Hoopoe

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"Hud Hud," The Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

This nice little guy is a frequent visitor around our farm. Most of the time, I hear him before I see him, because his colors make him blend in with his environment so well. “Hooooodhoodhoodhoodhood!” He announces his presence happily, not loudly, but subtly, serenely, wherever he goes. Usually five times in quick succession, and the first “hood” is drawn out, while the last four follow like quick drumbeats. I feel he’s a very peaceful bird, traveling calmly from here, to there, and on to the next place, with great interest in his surroundings. He never stays long, but his song remains always in my ears, hoping to catch it, and a glimpse of him, again!
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Birds of Egypt: “Cleopatra,” The Green Bee-Eater

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Cleopatra, The Green Bee-Eater of Egypt, "Merops Orientalis“

This is the first in a series of posts about my bird neighbors here in Egypt. I’m not a card carrying member of the Audubon Society, but I really love my bird neighbors, wherever I live. Here in the rural Nile Delta, birds are very different from my friends back on the farm in South Carolina. Come to think of it, all of my neighbors here are quite different from those in South Carolina! But I’ll stick to the birds for now. They are far less sensitive to the strange American Lady with her camera, and I don’t have to be quite so stealthy to take their pictures.

These pretty green birds have been catching my eye, and eluding my camera, for almost two years. Finally I caught this nice little beauty unaware while Mohamed and I were preparing new soil to add to our rooftop barrels. It is officially winter here, so even though most of the deciduous trees still haven’t lost their leaves, we must catch up on our winter gardening tasks while we have a chance. So we were up on the roof over our garage, preparing soil, and this nice green bird must have felt safe, seeing we were obviously occupied in a harmless activity nearby her perch in the Mulberry, or “Toot” Tree, as it is called in Arabic. I spied her up there, flashing bright green in the morning sunshine as she hunted bugs for breakfast. Nonchalantly I turned and went downstairs to grab my camera, praying her breakfast of bugs was big today. It was! I was able to set my camera on the fence of the roof to get a few really well focused shots before she felt full enough to leave her place at the mulberry table. That was fun!

Isn’t she gorgeous?

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Cleopatra, The Green Bee-Eater Bird Sitting Pretty in the Mulberry Tree

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Poem: Oh Cairo, Chapter 2

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Grapevine and Date Palm at Dawn

Chapter 2
Waking up, I rise from my bed
And tiptoe to my window
I fill my eyes with the sight of green
In all degrees of saturation
From the palest, lightest, luminescent leaf
To fronds of silhouetted palm
Elegantly backlit by the dawn
Oh, Allah, Alhamdulillah
I have awakened into a dream
Unable to move, unable to breathe
Without first whispering to You my thanks
Without seeing Your Glory and singing Your Praise
Without recognizing Your Mercy and Grace
For delivering me into Egypt
The leaves of potatoes sparkle with dew
Planted in the orchard of peaches
Thickly like children playing at the feet
Of their mothers in straight lines for praying
Row after row of peach trees in flower
Their pink petals move like lips whispering in prayer
Their branches raised in salute and takbir
The fields of the farmers brightly cover the land
Like squares of a green-checkered blanket
Of wheat, romaine lettuce, and spicy gargir,
Cauliflower and cabbages and clover
Evergreen citrus trees generously laden
With oranges, nectarines and lemons,
And date palms swaying in stately columns
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